Character Lottery

Little Saigon: Poultry worker
Who is this man? What’s with the chickens?

Another exercise, my friends!

1) Grab as many outdated magazines and newspapers within your reach. I would suggest hitting up your local thrift shop for an inexpensive variety, searching around the house, or check out a newspaper online for images (Note: Before opting for online images please consider number 3).

2) Snip images of as many people and creatures and remove all textual content that may be attached.

3) Avoid reading the article content that is attached to photos (Note: This is important! Reading text attached to the image may corrupt your fictional interpretation of the person in the image. Try refraining from using article content so that you can generate your own authentic material).

4) Fold pictures in half (If you’re using online images this is unnecessary. Simply create a folder with images that you selected and select an image at random.)

5) Find a large bucket or container that you can place pictures in and shuffle the images around.

6) Select a picture.

7) Now, open the picture and observe the image. While observing the selected image, note facial characteristics and body type. Write down as many physical characteristics of the person or creature that you chose and get as creative and detailed as you possibly can. Pay close attention to the face of the individual and what these facial characteristics portray. Keep in mind posture and the action that the individual is displaying. What is she or he doing? What is the manner of their action or inaction?

Next, consider the background of the individual and absorb the setting that the image was taken.  Create the character in medias res. Why is this person doing whatever he or she is doing in the photo? Or you can create the beginning as to how he or she reached the very moment that the image was taken.

Make sure you cover all of your bases. It’s always best to use the 5 W’s: What, Where, When, Why, and lastly Who.

By the end of your writing exercise you should be able to identify “Who” your character is by addressing all of the previously mentioned questions. Also, remember to have fun with this exercise! Character Lottery is, yet again, another way to consistently perpetuate creative writing skills. Keep your buckets or folders next to your place of writing and keep writing until you have completely emptied your character receptacles. And just when you feel like you’ve done it all, pick up your scissors and snip away at some more images for ongoing practice.

– Lauren Sumabat

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